Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced he would not vie in his party’s coming election, handing over the position and giving other candidates a chance after a chaotic term of less than a year. Suga, who took office last September after his forerunner, Shinzo Abe, resigned due to health problems, has experienced public support drop as he tried to control the increasing COVID-19 outbreak.
“Working on Covid countermeasures and election activities calls for a lot of energy, so I decided that I cannot work on both and should choose one of them,” Suga told reporters on Friday. “My mission as a Prime Minister is to protect the life and livelihood of people, so I’d like to concentrate on this.” He also said that he would conduct a news conference next week.
His decision not to run for leadership in his party comes after a stressful 11 months in the office marked by a surge in coronavirus infections and a delay in vaccine rollout. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) election is scheduled for 29th September, and the winner will likely become the Prime Minister. A general election is expected later this year.
Suga became a victorious politician for his ability to get things done. He won last year’s LDP election with about 70% of the polls. His victory was widely viewed as an attempt within the party to encourage stability and continuity between Suga and his predecessor Abe. The two political operators worked cooperatively during Abe’s years of leadership, with Suga acting as the head cabinet secretary in the government.
However, Suga could not run the government like Abe specifically in his handling of the coronavirus outbreak. He has faced harsh criticism, especially from opponents citing his government’s failure to control the pandemic.
According to a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, Koichi Nakano, Suga stepped down due to the falling support within LDP. “Suga had attempted to push his party to submission by implying that he might even conduct an early election to prevent the presidential election of the ruling party,” Nakano stated. “He then was currently purportedly working on restructuring the cabinet and also the reallocation of main officials in the ruling party to demonstrate leadership; he was seen as out of touch and too dictatorial.”
Suga disregarded the need for a state of emergency only to announce one for Tokyo and a few other prefectures early this year. Previously, his government advocated for the “Go To” campaign that encouraged people to travel. Specialists say that the campaign, which was stopped in December, led to increased virus infections across the country.
According to a survey by Kyodo News, by August, Suga’s approval rating had dropped to 32.8%, with over 65% of the interviewees saying that they didn’t want him to remain in the office.